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  • Aspire » Productivity

    22 Sep
    photo by Kenny Louie via Flickr

    photo by Kenny Louie via Flickr

    Good bye Summer, the first official day of Fall has arrived, another year is flying by.  Soon the leaves will be falling.  Just as leaves need to be raked (or mulched) so you can see what they are hiding, you can benefit by applying this same principle to your business as well. (Think of it as a second round of spring cleaning…).

    Clean your desk or work space

    At least a few of our clients struggle with keeping their desks organized.  (No Names, to protect the innocent ;-) )  Even at a time when most companies are trying to “Go Green”….one pile becomes two,  two becomes three,  and pretty soon it looks like a paper mill.   A lot of people struggle with this one, so don’t beat yourself up if this sounds like you.

    Working with your team, suggest starting by creating a system to process what’s currently on the desk.   The first step is condensing, toss what is trash, file what can be filed, and prioritize the rest.   A great goal with paperwork is to try and touch it only one time, two times if it is something you will complete later.

    You always see a look of accomplishment on someone’s face when they report their desk or work space has been cleaned.

    Clean the vehicle you use for work

    If your only mode of transportation is public, then this may not apply to you.  But if you drive to work, drive for work, be it company owned or personally owned, this does apply to you.   Not only does it improve the image you present of yourself, it also improves the resale value of the vehicle and reduces maintenance costs (because you are more likely to notice issues in advance).   This is paramount for businesses with fleets.  Every customer who sees your vehicles is judging your business by the way the vehicles are maintained.  They don’t have to be new, but there is no reason they shouldn’t be clean.

    No one sees the car you drive for work?   Clean it any way, and see if you don’t feel better driving it to work the next day.   Plus getting rid of that 3 week old half eaten Big Mac under the seat can really improve the air quality!

    Clean the area your customers/clients see the most

    This may be a meeting room, waiting room, store entrance, view from a curb, a drive up window,  or maybe it is just you.   The point is you never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression.   So although the ultimate goal is have your entire business spotless, the baby step approach is what actually works (most fail from trying to do too much at once).   So start with the area that your customers or clients see the most.

    Have you ever walked into a restaurant when there is a line and you end up sitting on that bench near the entrance waiting for your table?   If this area is filthy, do you ever wonder what the kitchen may look like where they are preparing your food? Would you want people thinking anything like that with your business?

    What about a hotel lobby?  Which hotel would you feel more confident about having clean rooms, one with a clean lobby or dirty lobby when you are checking in?   Do you get the picture?  Where is your #1 spot that customers see all the time? Every business has one.  Identify your risk spot and give it good cleaning.

    Finally, enjoy the fall weather.  There is no better time of year to get outside than the Fall – especially in Kansas City; some or all of these may allow you to do that.   You may even have fun with it.   As always feel free to add additional thoughts in the space below.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    28 Jan
    Photo by Elsie esq. via Flickr

    Photo by Elsie esq. via Flickr

    We are often asked where inspiration comes from for our blog posts…this one should be self-explanatory. ;-)    Reducing unnecessary distractions continues to be one of the most significant opportunities for improving our client’s productivity at work and in their personal time.   Imagine having an Auto-Flush for these unwanted distractions…! What would be the top 5 things you would flush first?   How would it improve your productivity?

    This is somewhat unscientific, but observation and experience has shown these to be perennial distractions in 21st century business that would be better served on the receiving end of a high powered Auto-Flush.

    Email Management:  Frequently, this is one of the biggest opportunities for an automatic flusher to go to work and keep correspondence organized and prioritized.    You may enjoy reading Newsletters, checking groupon offers, and reading up on your favorite sports team feed, but when you’re allowing them to interrupt your day, it’s not a productive way to work.   If you want to watch some great “how-to” videos, here are links to three of the more popular email providers; Outlook, I-Cloud, and Google.   Let the system (auto-flush) organize them as they come in.  When you do access them, they are presorted so you’ll be more efficient reading them as well.

    Involved in issues others are responsible for:   If you have ever been asked a question that clearly should be directed to someone else, you are aware of this distractor.   For the Auto-Flush to work in this case, you must refrain from answering the question, even if it is the quickest “short-term” solution.   Instead, redirect it to the appropriate person. Start training people who to go to and don’t allow them to use you as the short cut.  Getting the right people in the right seats on the bus has to be more than lip service and a name on an organizational chart.  It has to be implemented.  Once your employees understand who is responsible for what the Auto-Flusher will take over.

    Scheduling: Trying to schedule meetings going back and forth using email or playing phone tag can be exhausting.  Certainly there is a place where more formal communication is appropriate. But implementing a clear shift of scheduling between acquainted business contacts, company employees, and family members to google calendar, outlook, iCal, or a professional scheduling software like Timetrade will create an Auto-Flush that cuts out a lot of time confirming who, when, and where.

    Getting Paid: Cash is King, we say it all the time.  If you aren’t getting paid timely, your business will struggle.  Today, there are so many great electronic options available; the excuses for not having this on Auto-Flush are getting limited, yet we continue to see business struggle with getting paid.  You’re probably familiar with PayPal. But that is just one of many.  We are big fans of IPN (Intuit’s product).   Also check out SquareDowalla, and Square Cash.   More directly needing e-commerce?  Check out cubecartwoocommerce, and shopify.   Take some time to research the security level of these products.  Not that they are not safe, but depending on how you set them up the level of security can vary.   If plugging one of these into your business appears daunting, we would be happy to refer you to someone who can help.

    Data Backup:  If you still haven’t installed an Auto-Flush on this function of your business, I hope this is the catalyst to call the plumber (figuratively speaking)!  I heard two different stories again this past week of businesses that had harddrives/servers fail without having current backups.  The cost to try and correct these mistakes is costly and regardless how hard one tries, you will still be missing information.  Can you answer this simple statement?


    ____________ is responsible for backing up our company data.


    With so many inexpensive options out there, don’t be someone’s backup horror story.    If you find yourself confused with the options, we will be glad to connect you with a professional.

    Do any of these sound familiar in your business?  What are you doing that you would like to see automated to the point that is did not require effort on your part or the part of your employees to get completed?   Take a few minutes and think about it.  At your next staff meeting, challenge them and see where an Auto-Flush just might be the answer to improving a step that is costing your business money and wasting valuable time.

    Chris Steinlage    Kansas City Business Coach

    06 Jan
    Picture from Official US Navy Imagery via Flickr

    Picture from Official US Navy Imagery via Flickr

    Tell me which of these scenarios is more likely:

    1. Small business gets a call out of the blue and is offered a huge distribution deal – instantly growing their top line (assuming they can deliver) by 10X what it was before.
    2. Small business focuses on getting the little things right, gets a little better every day and over the course of 3-5 years grows by 10X.

    We’ve all heard anecdotes about the lucky strike, the cool business that gets profiled on Oprah and takes off like crazy – but unfortunately it’s the equivalent of winning the lottery.  Yes it can happen, but it’s not something you seriously plan on and if that’s the extent of your long term strategy, you’re in trouble.

    Overnight successes almost never actually happen overnight, regardless of how they’re portrayed in the news.

    In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell shared his theory of the 10,000 hour rule – that is, it takes at least 10,000 hours of focused practice for someone to truly excel and become a master at whatever it is that they do. To put that into context, it’s about 5 years of FULL TIME effort in order to reach that threshold. Most ‘overnight’ successes have put in at least this much time before they’re ‘discovered’.

    But we’d all like to change, to succeed now! Every year most of us write down a big resolution or two and end up disappointed and frustrated…usually within a few weeks.

    Why the failure?

    One of the problems with resolutions is that we try to take on too much. We ignore the 10,000 hour rule and attempt to jump directly to mastery. We try to run too fast and end up running out of gas instead – because success, especially meaningful improvements are hard and don’t happen overnight.

    A Better Way To Change

    The good news is there is a better way. A proven technique that will, if followed with discipline, almost guarantee that you can achieve great things.

    A few caveats before we get into the heart of this ‘secret':

    • You have to want…I mean REALLY want the change.
    • You MUST take responsibility for yourself and the outcomes in your life. It’s up to you and no one else.
    • There are no shortcuts or silver bullets – change requires time and effort and there’s no way around it.

    What’s the ‘secret’? It’s likely that you’re going to be disappointed, but the best way to change and improve personally and professionally is to get a little better each day.You’ve likely heard it before – slow and steady wins the race. It may be a cliche, but it’s still true.

    Financially a lot of books have outlined this theme for success – starting with The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. After interviewing U.S. millionaires for a number of years, they developed a list of 7 rules that can help anyone achieve Millionaire status.

    The first rule?  Always live within your means.  

    Profoundly simple, yet clearly not a rule that a lot of people follow…at least not on a consistent regular basis (based on the Average Credit Card debt of $15,000+).

    Start Small

    Whether you’ve done your New Year’s Resolutions or not, if you really want to change, the best bet is to start small.

    The first step is to figure out what you want to change – because you’re starting small, you need to be focused and intentional. Identify 1 area that you feel is really holding you back –  it could be your health, finances, or your relationships. There’s not a right answer, but pick the area that most often come to mind as holding you back…or pick the area that you think you have the most control over. The important thing will be to make progress over time, build up confidence and momentum and that will enable you to address other areas of your life.

    Once you’ve identified the area of your life that you want to change, then come up with a small change that you could start doing immediately and consistently. It should be really easy to do, but still be meaningful. Here are some quick ideas that might give you a starting point:

    • Start a savings account and religiously put $100 in it every week / month (obviously the amount and timing depend on what you could afford).
    • Every time you want to eat potato chips, have some fruit or vegetables instead. Don’t change anything else, just make this 1 switch and do it every day.
    • Start reading great books to broaden your mind. Commit to 10 pages a day…or a book a month…something that’s easy to do but meaningful.
    • Schedule lunch/coffee/dinner once a week with someone on your list of friends who you don’t see often enough. Be consistent and don’t miss a week for any reason.

    Imagine if you really committed to any of the changes above (or something along those lines that was more important to you). Imagine sticking to your new rule for a full year…you will be better off than you were before and because it should be easy to do (by definition based on what you picked), it should be something that will become a habit going forward.

    Do you feel like you need a bigger change than what’s outlined above? There are no shortcuts – but if you start small, then you can roll in another change on top of what you’ve already started to master.

    Remember – slow and steady wins the race.

    Want some more insight into these ideas?  Check out The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson or The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy.

    What small change could you make this week? Have you tried this approach? Did it work for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    09 Sep
    photo by R/DV/RS via Flickr

    photo by R/DV/RS via Flickr

    We all have tasks, to-do’s, duties, and responsibilities that fill our daily schedule.  If you own or manage a business, that daily list can be long before you start and multiply without blinking by mid-day.   Effectively managing it is not always easy, but there is a better way.  Read below for 6 simple questions you can ask yourself over the course of your day that will help you keep it prioritized to what matters most.  It will help you focus and it’s a great way to build personal accountability.

    Looking for an expert help!

    A contact of mine here in Kansas City recently commented they were fed up with listening to all the professed “Experts” tell everybody what they should be doing. He was specifically frustrated that many of these “Experts” seldom point out any solutions to the problem.   He’s been looking for help and was tired of being lectured. He’s looking for something more concrete.  He’s looking for something that can help him now.   There was a lot of frustration in his voice and it wasn’t a stretch to come up with several examples of the kind of noise he was talking about; between local events, talk radio, webinars, you tube and cable news channels, there are a lot of people proclaiming to be….experts but not really helping anyone.  As a business coach / consultant the conversation definitely struck a nerve.

    “Intentions don’t matter. It’s the end result we’re all judged by.”  Sherrilyn Kenyon

    Although the original rebelling comment about the ineffectiveness of experts was a generalized statement, I saw a gauntlet thrown at my feet and a quest to respond was eminent.   At Aspire, our goal with every business to help them be more successful; the process can be complicated but the goal is plain and simple. Yes we give ‘expert’ advice, but our clients need to see results or what is the point?

    So this week’s business blog is a something concrete.   Print is out, cut and paste, make it a screen saver, whatever works for you, but refer to it regularly.  This is a simple tool a colleague, George Hedley introduced in his book Get Your Business To Work.  Literally every owner or manager can use this to help better prioritize their time.  We all know time is an equalizer in business and in life; we all work in the same 24 hour day. It is the use of that time that varies, especially during the hours they are normally focusing on running their business. The difference between success and failure is often based on how well you prioritize your time. (Tweet This)

    Start Using This Daily!

    Put these 6 questions in a place where you will see them regularly and ask yourself them continuously.  It will keep trivial things from consuming your day and help you make quicker decisions on what is a priority and what isn’t.

    Priorities: What matters most (regularly ask yourself as you’re working)

    1)      Is this the best use of my time and talent?

    2)      Is this activity helping me achieve my targets and goals?

    3)      Will this activity maximize our bottom-line profits?

    4)      Will this activity help get my business to work?

    5)      Am I doing what I should be doing?

    6)      Am I getting a return on energy?

    What is great about these questions is they are short and do not require a lot of thought to answer yes or no. The answer will quickly help you decide if the current activity you are doing is worthwhile or not.   With a couple “No” answers many of your priorities will earn spots lower down on your list.  Multiple “Yes” will clearly rise to the top.  You will be focusing your time on things that truly impact your business.   If you find yourself answering a lot of these “No” but they are still fires that need to be put out, there is a strong possibility you may not be delegating effectively or a policy/procedure needs to be refined.

    Of course there are some implied assumptions here: You know what your talents are (and what you should delegate). You have clear targets and goals. You understand your profitability and what drives it…and you are consistently aware of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling (not always easy). If these assumptions aren’t true – then perhaps that should be one of your top priorities!!! ;-)

    With little effort these 6 questions can help you improve the use of your time and build a priority list that is getting your business to work and providing you positive results in the process.

    What do you think? Is this a process you can see yourself using? Is this a good example of tangible, concrete help? As always we appreciate your comments.

    Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

    11 Mar
    Great Flower Clock picture by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr

    Great Flower Clock picture by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr

    Did you feel it this past Sunday morning at 2AM, that magical moment where we spontaneously transport ourselves one hour into the future, yet nothing else around us has changed?   It may be the closest thing we have to time travel; even it is only an hour.

    Who knows, maybe that was George Vernon Hudson’s goal all along when he first suggested the idea of Daylight Savings Time in 1895!

    Whether you consider yourself a time traveler or not, one thing is certain, when the annual “Spring Forward” event happens you are hard pressed not to start thinking about warmer weather and all the change that comes with spring.  But that precious hour you lost at 2AM is gone (at least for 6 months) and I sincerely hope you weren’t up working at that time.

    In your business, losing hours here and there throughout the week is something we all deal with; even the best of best struggle with it at times.  I understand, sometimes life simply gets in the way.

    But…what if you could get that hour back and then some?

    This past week, I had a couple interesting conversations about time management.  In fact, it is regular topic for discussion with our clients, in our workshops & presentations, and the educational material we produce.  Let’s face it, we all have the same 24 hours in each of our days and schedules today are more demanding than ever.  Efficiency is king and if you aren’t productive rather than just busy; those who are, are going to leave you eating their dust.  It’s imperative you manage your time effectively.

    Spring your Business Forward….3 things you can do today.

    1)      Have a 15 minute planning session every day. 

    Depending on your business, this may be a short managers meeting or a private meeting with yourself.  The goal is to create a targeted, concise and prioritized “What Matters Most”  list for the day.  It will create a laser focus for the important tasks at hand that day.  Staring at a list with more “To-Do” items on it than is humanly possible to complete is emotionally draining.

    2)      Delegate away 2 things you’re currently doing.

    Make a list of the top 10 things that steal time from you on an average week.  Which two could you most easily delegate to someone else (in house or outsourced) allowing that business function to be executed properly without you doing it.  This may take some training, but the reward is well worth the effort.

    3)      Check your Email, text, social media, and Voicemail on a set schedule.

    Schedule specific times of the day to check your email and check in.  If you absolutely must have your email open, turn off the notifications so you aren’t getting interrupted every few minutes with an audio sound.  A recent study found it takes up to 20 minutes for someone to refocus after being interrupted.  In this world of instant messaging, tweets and updates, it’s a wonder anyone can concentrate!

    We would love to hear how you plan to Spring Your Business Forward this year and get back that hour you lost last Sunday night or eliminate some you have been losing during the day.  If you have any other simple suggestions to share please we’d love to hear them.  We appreciate all comments and your input could likely help someone else out!

    Chris Steinlage   Kansas City Business Coach